Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 21, 2020
Thank you, Jerry, and thank you Special Coordinator Mladenov for your briefing. We are incredibly grateful for your dedicated and honorable service as Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace for more than five years; your diligent efforts to help resolve this conflict have been invaluable. We wish you all the best as you transition out of Jerusalem, and I am looking forward to seeing you in the next couple days and working with you in your next assignment.
As this year comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on the progress we have made thus far, and how that progress has overturned a number of assumptions that have framed our thinking on Middle East peace in ways that have stood in the way of progress.
The dispute between Israelis and the Palestinians in this forum dates back to the earliest days of the Security Council. Since 1948, there have been a stream of efforts to resolve the conflict, yet they have generally failed. These decades-old approaches have not only fallen short; they have stymied regional economic cooperation and growth, and they have largely prevented Israelis and Palestinians from establishing friendly relations.
Recognizing the impasse we found ourselves in, President Trump presented a bold new vision for Middle East peace – a realistic, detailed plan to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, while making Israelis, Palestinians, and millions of others in the region both safer and more prosperous.
President Trump’s Vision for Peace saw Israel commit itself to working towards a two-state solution, an event that was witnessed by other Arab nations, including the UAE and Bahrain, who attended the Vision’s initial presentation.
Building off this momentum, in August, the President then brokered an historic agreement to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel – now known as the Abraham Accords – which was the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab country since 1994.
The following month, Bahrain joined the UAE in signing the Abraham Accords declaration at the White House, committing to an exchange of ambassadors, and launching a flurry of activity, including the first direct flights between these countries as well as cooperative initiatives across a broad range of sectors, each a major step forward in achieving an enduring and warm peace in the region.
By October, Sudan and Israel had also agreed to end the state of belligerence between them, thus extending the reach of the Abraham Accords to the African continent.
And finally, now, on December 10th, Morocco announced it would resume diplomatic relations with Israel and expand economic and cultural cooperation to advance regional stability. In less than four months, four states have opened diplomatic relations with Israel, paving the way for still more engagement that will help bring about the prosperity envisioned under President Trump’s peace plan.
For decades, the prevailing assumption was that the world would only see normalized international relations with Israel following a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But we have proven this assumption wrong.
Instead, Israeli entrepreneurs are now making regular trips to Dubai and Manama to explore economic opportunities that will benefit all their citizens, while Emirati and Bahraini entrepreneurs travel freely to Israel with the same goals. These economic exchanges are a bright spot in a global economy that has been overshadowed by the regional conflict and COVID-19.
For decades we also had seen little progress towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as parties continued to reflexively resort to same old, tired rhetoric and hardened positions. Today, we instead see practical, real examples that genuine economic and cultural ties are being formed. As a result, all of us here should think long and hard about what else we may have missed or misinterpreted over the years.
We once again encourage our regional partners and the members of this body to thoughtfully consider the U.S. Vision for Peace. We continue to urge the Palestinians to consider the opportunities within the Vision for Peace, and to negotiate with Israel and present their objections within the context of direct talks based on the Vision. A peace deal would bring much needed economic support and investment to the Palestinians and open up an even broader world of opportunities – for Palestinians, for regional partners, and for the world.
We look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when this Council no longer needs to debate this matter.
Last week, Jewish communities in Israel and around the world celebrated Hanukkah, the festival of lights. And there is a Christmas tree lit in bright lights in Manger Square at the Church of the Nativity. I hope that amid the darkness of the winter, a global pandemic, and far too many conflicts around the globe, we as a Council and the international community more broadly, which represents so many religious and cultural traditions, will embrace the light represented by the Abraham Accords. May we all work together to seek ways to spread this light to other nations.